Home » Advantages of Electroforming
Think of a long skinny tube with a complex structure needing tight internal tolerances. If you make that tube as an outside shape by machining it out of, say aluminum, what tolerances could you hold? Probably down to ± .0002″ or ±.005 mm. So if you electrodeposit metal on the aluminum and then dissolve the aluminum away in sodium hydroxide, you will be left with a tube having the exact dimensions, features and tolerances that you machined the aluminum to, only as an internal feature. Electroforming is the easiest way to make internal cavities like this, and more accurate than machining, casting, stamping, extruding, dip brazing, rapid prototyping or EDM machining.
Think of a phonograph record. In the old days, when music used to be purchased as plastic records, the original was carved with a needle on a plastic disc in the studio, then nickel electroformed on that disc in reverse to make a metal master, then electroformed again off the master to make a mother, then electroformed again multiple times to make stampers. These stampers were then used to stamp the millions of records sold, and no fidelity detail was lost from the initial recording in the studio through all of these replications. You played that record and it sounded just like you were in that studio listening to your favorite musician. Surface detail can be replicated down to a molecular level, much smaller than anything you can actually make. If you make the mandrel shiny, out of something re-usable such as stainless steel, then the electroform will have the exact finish as what you made. This is how reflectors are made.
Dollar bills are made using electroformed stampers, made from the artist’s single original engraving. How many stampers to you suppose the US mint needs from that one engraving?
Suppose you want a thin metal structure having really complex geometry that simply cannot be stamped or machined. We can machine an aluminum mandrel having as close tolerances as can be achieved by machining, electroform a thin layer of metal on that, dissolve the mandrel away, and there you have it, a super lightweight structure with really tight tolerances, better than can be made any other way on earth. In this picture are light weight satellite steering rocket nozzle heat shields and a light weight satellite microwave antenna horn.
Sometimes customers need parts of copper that also have high tensile strengths, such as microwave components for satellites. See the chart in the “What is Electroforming” section for physical properties we can achieve. We have also repaired high strength copper parts using our Type IIA copper, where we molecularly bond our copper on to the existing part at room temperature and build up just the area that needs repair. This works well as welding would soften the copper, and our bonding is even stronger than welding. We have our own tensile testing equipment and provide customers with the physical properties of their parts.
Our Rockwell C-50 nickel is very wear and abrasion resistant, while maintaining good ductility. It is good for the inside layer of injection molds, for abrasion resistant applications and for making items that need to survive a lot of handling. We have our own hardness tester and supply customers with the hardness of their parts.